Galaxy Zoo: Understanding Cosmic Mergers

Starting at midnight 11/24, our new site ‘Galaxy Zoo: Understanding Cosmic Mergers’ went on-line as a new project in Galaxy Zoo. In Mergers, we are working to understand the cosmic collisions that lead to galaxy mergers. Every day we will have a new target galaxy that we need your help to model. Based on the basic input parameters that we provide, a Java applet running in your browser will simulate some possible collision scenarios. Computers don’t do a good job comparing simulations and real astronomical images, so we need your help to find out which simulations are the most similar to the real galaxy collision.

Working on Mergers will require some patience. Some of the collisions we are trying to model are rarer than others, so don’t get discouraged. In some cases, you will need to look at a few hundred images to get your first close match. Just remember, you aren’t looking for perfection. Just try to find a simulation that has some of the unusual and unique tidal features of the target galaxy. When you found something close, you might want to go further and “enhance” the image to make even a better match. The more data we have on these galactic collisions, the more we can narrow down the input parameters that caused these systems to form. You can be the most helpful by looking at a lot of images and then select the best of the best through the evaluate mode of the applet. This will happen automatically when you have selected eight possible merger images.

My graduate student Anthony Holincheck and I have been working on this project for a long time, and are very excited to see it see it launch today. We want to thank all the Zooites that participated in our beta test. Zooites rock! Of course, thanks also go out to Arfon, Chris, Lucy, Nancy, Geza, and Mark in their work in the development. Without all of your help, this project would not be possible. Our team will be adding more features in the coming weeks and months, so please stay tuned.

As I write this blog, we are T-5 hours before the full launch of our site. I cannot help but be humbled by the incredible dedication of the Zooites. With your help, we are going to model the dynamics of hundreds of galaxy collisions. This effort will help us connect the dynamics of galaxy collision to the star formation rates in galaxies. Thank you for your on-going support Galaxy Zoo!

- John Wallin – Computational Scientist/Astronomer

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8 responses to “Galaxy Zoo: Understanding Cosmic Mergers”

  1. Jim says :

    Where, how do I find this work site?

  2. oino sakai says :

    I can’t wait to try this out– I’m quitting my job! :-)

  3. Galaxiom says :

    I was one of the incredible number who participated in the first zoo project. It was a fantastic experience even though I only contributed a few. The “work” was incredibly rewarding in seeing the most stunningly beautiful galaxies.

    I was most impressed by looking each time at many millions or billions of stars. Click after click another vast galaxy for as long as I clicked. That impression of the imensity of the Universe remains with me still.

    It has been good to revisit and see the realisation of the potential of this project where millions of people make a small contribution to such an immense task. Thankyou for letting me know about the mergers project.

  4. Allan Sweeney says :

    It’s humbling to be so tiny in such a vast project.

  5. lawless says :

    I have a lot of trouble trying to figure out how these galaxies went in this position . But it’s a very good exercice ., even if i didn’t get lot of success . It just look like star opera .

  6. Marco Avanzi says :

    Greetings to all men and women of goodwill pilgrims in the cosmos,
    the search for truth and answers in the infinite past.
    From the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope on Mount Graham Arizona (Vatican Observatory),
    the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA / ESA) and now with the “Galaxy Zoo”
    discover the wonderful tapestry of the cosmos and the meaning we seek.
    With scientists and researchers of the “Galaxy Zoo”
    for the research carried out by examining the beautiful images from the deep universe.
    Congratulations on your website, where you do your research and share findings
    with amateur astronomers around the world.

    a warm greeting by Marco Avanzi from Genoa (Italy)

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